US political pressure on Russia stepped up on Tuesday, May 16, as the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, would not rule out the declaration of Russia as an official “terrorist” designation and a Congressional resolution for the setting up of a Russian war crimes tribunal went forward.

While testifying before a US Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on China, Blinken conceded, for the first time, that Russia could be recognized as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SSoT).

According to European Pravda, Blinken's statement was made during a discussion with senior South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has long supported the idea of Russia being designated as an SSoT.

"We all want China to stop helping Russia, right? I have an idea. One hundred US senators have proposed that we declare Russia a State Sponsor of Terrorism to deter countries like China from providing them with weapons," Graham said to Blinken.

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"Months have passed and nothing has happened. Mr Secretary of State, I like you very much, but you will never declare Russia a State Sponsor of Terrorism, will you?" Graham asked.

"Never say never," Blinken responded.

In his exchange with the legislator, Blinken went on to say that current sanctions have better managed to deter Beijing from providing military assistance to Moscow.

Currently, the US designates Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria as SSoT which, in turn, triggers a regime of unilateral and harsh sanctions.

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The attack has already stoked political tensions, with some Republicans pointing the finger at Biden and right-wing conspiracy theories flooding social media.

In May 2022, Senator Graham, together with Connecticut’s Democrat Senator, Richard Blumenthal, introduced a resolution calling on the Biden administration to designate Russia as an SSoT.

In July 2022, the Graham-Blumenthal resolution was unanimously passed by the Senate which stated that the Senate:

·       Views the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, as sponsoring acts of terrorism;

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and

·       Calls on the Secretary of State to designate the Russian Federation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

SSoT designation allows additional categories of sanctions to be placed on a country, including restrictions on US foreign assistance, bans on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual use items, and financial and other restrictions.

Both Ukrainian President Zelensky and Ukraine’s national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, have appealed to the US to recognize the Russian Federation as an SSoT.

Yesterday also witnessed more pressure on Russia from the House of Representatives the other chamber of the US Congress.

The House’s powerful Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of a resolution calling on the US President to support the creation of a Special Tribunal to punish Russian aggression against Ukraine, as reported in Voice of America.

House Resolution 81 was initiated in January 2023, by Massachusetts’ Democrat Representative Bill Keating, with bi-partisan co-sponsorship from 25 other Representatives.

In presenting the resolution to the Committee hearing, Keating said he personally hoped that such a Special Tribunal would be established through a majority vote in the United Nations to provide it with “legitimacy and authority.” The resolution identifies that as one method for creating the Tribunal.

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Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the Committee, noted that members had had an opportunity to hear from Andrii Kostin, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, as well as to personally visit sites of war crimes in Ukraine.

“I support this position. We’ve heard from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General about horrible brutality,” McColl said.

“I had the chance with him in Bucha to see the mass graves, the children shot in the head, the five-years old children raped to death by Wagner Group members … the forcible deportation of children, bombed maternity hospitals, bombed civilian infrastructure, and other non-compliance of the Geneva Convention. That’s why I view the Special Tribunal as appropriate,” McCaul said

The resolution will be referred to the broader House of Representatives for further consideration at a later date.

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